As someone who is married to a terrific pasta cook, I may at times have unrealistically high expectations when it comes to pasta dishes at restaurants. I have high conviction with no partiality that my wife Jun can make a ragu-based pasta or lasagna better than most of the Italian restaurants out there, with a few exceptions in New York City like Marea (although its magic that I experienced in my early days living in NYC has somewhat been diminished) and Rezdora. When we moved from New York City to DC last year, one of the biggest questions we were facing was if we will find a go-to pasta restaurant in the District. We’ve certainly had our own share of misses in some of the hyped DC restaurants (including those with Michelin stars that made us question the judgment of Michelin critics). Well, Reveler’s Hour in Adam’s Morgan solved our conundrum. After a couple of visits to the restaurant, I can confidently say that it is THE place to be in DC when you have a serious pasta craving.
Opened by the team behind the Mediterranean standout Tail Up Goat (which we also liked on our initial visit; will report back with a formal review at some point in the future) shortly before the pandemic began, Reveler’s Hour does not try too hard to please its diners. Looking at the menu only will not give a lasting impression that the kitchen is doing something extraordinary until you take that first bite of a soulful pasta dish. But before you go on your carb indulgence, I do suggest ordering a few appetizer dishes like the grilled octopus with red onions that was cooked more or less to perfect texture (which in our culinary journey has been surprisingly tricky to find in restaurants), or the eggplant parmesan arancini with smoked mozzarella and pepper that was quite hearty and delicious. On to the pasta. On our initial visit in the spring, the lumache pasta with spicy pork ragu we tried would be a standout pasta anywhere with its rich and homey feel, but the best dish of the night, to our great surprise, did not even use animal products as main ingredients. After taking the first bite of the spaghetti alla chitarra with wood roasted mushrooms and shallots, Jun’s eyes opened up widely and she exclaimed she had never tasted anything like this before. We’ve had pasta dishes using mushrooms before, but the earthy flavor that the kitchen showcased was simply exceptional.
We were very sad to find out that the mushroom spaghetti was not available on our second visit with another couple, which featured very different pasta rosters appropriate for the summer season. The consistency of the texture of pasta shined again, whether it was the light corn cappellacci with shishito peppers, scallion, basil and garlic breadcrumbs or the more robust cacio e pepe with pecorino, black pepper and grilled zucchini. The pasta dish we ended up ordering twice (after not feeling quite full with the above-average entrée of pork belly main dish), though, was the wonderful bucatini with pork ragu, pecorino and fennel pollen breadcrumbs where the spicy flavor of the ragu worked beautifully with the al dente pasta noodle. If you have room for dessert after all the pastas, we enjoyed a delightful pecorino cake with citrus preserves that was not too sweet for our liking (available on our first visit) as well as scoops of a variety of ice creams and sorbets on top of brioche (on our second visit).
Reveler’s Hour is a popular restaurant in DC and for good reasons. Both of our visits for early dinner, the dining room as well as the bar area (the host told us the restaurant recently started to take reservations for bar seating) was jam-packed with diners eager to experience the magic coming out from the kitchen. The dining room has a lively vibe but I wish it had a bit more light throughout the space. Don’t skip the wines at Reveler’s Hour. The wine list at the restaurant is quite remarkable (from interesting corners of the world and organized by distinct themes that seem to change every season), it was a joy as an oenophile like myself to see a restaurant take its wines very seriously. Reveler’s Hour is one of those restaurants we will visit again and again as long as we live in DC, and hope to become regulars. If you have a serious craving for good pastas and wines, I urge you to make a run at the restaurant.
KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
Address: 1775 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009
Reservation via Resy